Laptop Buying Guide: 8 Essential Tips
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Laptops are compact enough to carry with you, yet powerful enough to run demanding applications. Notebooks are the best tool for doing serious work or play whether you’re at home, on the road, or in a college classroom.
Whether you are just browsing the web, need to type a research paper, work on video production, or play some of the best PC games, it’s all best done on a laptop. So how do you know what to look for in a laptop? Well, we’ve put together this laptop buying guide to help answer that question for you.
Laptops come in a wide variety of sizes, features, and prices, which makes choosing the best laptop a challenge. That’s why you need to figure out what your needs are.
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- 12.5 to 14-inch screens offer the best balance between usability and portability. Larger screens are fine if you don’t travel much and smaller models are great for kids.
- If you’re spending over $600, shoot for these minimum specs:
- CPU: Core i5 or Ryzen 5
- Screen: 1920 x 1080 IPS
- RAM: 8GB
- Storage: SSD instead of a hard drive
- 9+ hours of battery life in our test is ideal if you plan to take your laptop anywhere.
- Consider a 2-in-1 laptop (either a convertible or detachable) if you want to use your laptop as a tablet. If not, a standard clamshell notebook may be a better choice.
- Chromebooks are ideal for kids and students or as secondary laptops, but their functionality keeps growing. Windows 11 laptops and MacBooks both offer plenty of functionality; which platform you prefer is a matter of personal taste.
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1. Pick a platform: Windows 11 vs. macOS vs. Chrome OS?
Depending on your needs this could be an easy choice, but if you don’t have any existing loyalties to a platform or specific software that you need this can be a challenging question to answer. If you are in that latter camp here’s a quick overview of each platform’s strengths and weaknesses to help you decide.
Most laptops come with one of three operating systems: Windows, Chrome OS, or macOS (for MacBooks only).
Windows 11 (or Windows 10)
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The most flexible operating system, Windows 11, runs on more laptop models than Chrome OS or macOS. Windows notebooks range in price from under $150 to several thousand dollars and offer a wide array of features from touch screens to fingerprint readers to dual graphics chips. Windows 11, the latest version of Microsoft’s flagship operating system, provides a number of improvements over Windows 10, including the revised interface, the new Microsoft Store, handy features like Snap View.
Since its launch in October 2021, Windows 11 has also added a host of improvements, including Focus Sessions and a Do Not Disturb mode. The 22h3 update also came with notable performance and battery optimization enhancements. Windows 11 laptops are great for students, researchers, and business users, and they’re still the only gaming laptops anyone should consider.
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All MacBooks come with Apple’s latest desktop operating system, macOS Ventura. Overall, the operating system offers similar functionality to Windows 11, but with a different take on the interface that substitutes an apps dock at the bottom of the screen for Microsoft’s Start menu and taskbar. Instead of the Cortana digital assistant, Mac users get Siri. They can also perform transactions with Apple Pay, take calls or texts from their phones, and unlock their laptops with an Apple Watch.
However, macOS isn’t made for touch, because no MacBook comes with a touch screen. While Apple did bring iPad apps to its laptops starting with macOS Big Sur (iPad and iPadOS apps can run natively on M1 and M2 Macs), you have to rely on a touchpad or mouse to navigate them. Ventura also brought Apple’s Stage Manager for handling multitasking, which is a useful feature, although it can take time to adjust to it.
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Found on inexpensive Chromebooks such as the Samsung Chromebook 3. Google’s OS is simple and secure, but more limited than Windows or macOS. The user interface looks a lot like Windows with an application menu, a desktop, and the ability to drag windows around, but the primary focus is still the Chrome browser. While newer Chromebooks, like the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook can run Android apps, they still aren’t always optimized for use in a laptop form factor.
If you need a device to surf the Web and check email, navigate social networks and chat online, Chromebooks are highly portable and tend to offer good battery life at low prices. They are also extremely popular with schools, parents, and increasingly businesses because they are hard to infect with malware. For educational use, they offer something closer to a full laptop experience and are more functional than most tablets. If you need a Chromebook, look for one with at least 4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage. A screen with a 1920 x 1080 resolution is preferred and you can now find 4K and OLED models, like the aforementioned IdeaPad Duet 5.
2. Decide if you want a 2-in-1
Many PC laptops fall into the category of 2-in-1 laptops, hybrid devices that can switch between traditional clamshell mode, tablet mode and other positions in between such as tent or stand modes. 2-in-1s generally come in two different styles: detachables with screens that come off the keyboard entirely and convertible laptops with hinges that bend back 360 degrees to change modes.
Most of these systems are much better at serving one purpose than the other, with convertibles being laptops first and detachables offering a superior tablet experience. However, if you don’t see the need to use your notebook as a slate, you’ll usually get more performance for your money with a traditional clamshell laptop.
3. Choose the right size
Before you look at specs or pricing, you need to figure out just how portable you need your laptop to be. Laptops are usually categorized by their display sizes:
- 11 to 12 inches: The thinnest and lightest systems around have 11- to 12-inch screens and typically weigh 2 to 3 pounds.
- 13 to 14 inches: Provides the best balance of portability and usability, particularly if you get a laptop that weighs under 3.5 pounds.
- 15 to 16 inches: The most popular size, 15-inch laptops usually weigh 3.5 to 5.5 pounds. Consider this size if you want a larger screen and you’re not planning to carry your notebook around often.
- 17 to 18 inches: If your laptop stays on your desk all day every day, a 17-inch laptop or the newly emerging 18-inch laptops could provide you with the kind of processing power you need to play high-end games or do workstation-level productivity.
4. Check that keyboard and touchpad
The most impressive specs in the world don’t mean diddly if the laptop you’re shopping for doesn’t have good ergonomics. If you plan to do a lot of work on your computer, make sure the keyboard offers solid tactile feedback, plenty of key travel (the distance the key goes down when pressed, usually 1 to 2mm) and enough space between the keys. If you’re buying a Windows laptop, be sure it has Precision touchpad drivers.
(Image credit: Phillip Tracy/Laptop Mag)
Look for an accurate touchpad that doesn’t give you a jumpy cursor and responds consistently to multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom. If you’re buying a business laptop, consider getting one with a pointing stick (aka nub) between the G and H keys so you can navigate around the desktop without lifting your fingers off the keyboard’s home row.
5. Pick your specs
Notebook components such as processor, hard drive, RAM, and graphics chip can confuse even notebook aficionados, so don’t feel bad if spec sheets look like alphabet soup to you.
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Here are the main components to keep an eye on.
CPU: The “brains” of your computer, the processor has a huge influence on performance, but depending on what you want to do, even the least-expensive model may be good enough. Here’s a rundown:
- Apple M1 and M2: Apple’s custom silicon, the ARM-based M1 and M2 chips crush the competition when it comes to a balance of raw performance and endurance. Opt for the Pro or Max variants if you need even more power for tasks like content creation or programming.
- Intel 13th Gen CPUs: Intel’s 13th Gen Raptor Lake processors are the state of the art for Intel in 2023. From the HX series at the high-end to the balanced P-series and thin-and-light friendly U-Series, Intel is delivering a superior performance to battery life ratio than we’ve seen in recent years.
- Intel 12th Gen CPUs: Intel’s 12th Gen Alder Lake processors power the previous generation of laptops. To summarize, Alder Lake — a 7-nanometer chip — offers updated integrated Iris Xe graphics with up to 5.5Ghz speeds as well as Thunderbolt 4 support. The Intel EVO brand sets parameters for top laptops, including a minimum of 9 hours of battery life.
- AMD Ryzen 7000: The Ryzen 7000 chips from AMD are just rolling out now, so we are still waiting to get laptops with them in our labs for texting, but the company claims we can expect a roughly 78% boost to CPU performance at the top end. If it can still maintain its excellent battery life along with it that will be incredibly compelling.
- AMD Ryzen 5000 and 6000: Intel’s previous generations were a massive leap for the company and remain reasonable options on more budget-friendly laptops. We found Ryzen 5000 and 6000 chips to be equal to or better than their equivalent Intel 11th and 12th gen. Not only do you get great performance and endurance but Ryzen-equipped laptops tend to be cheaper than their Intel counterparts.
- Intel Core i9: Core i9 processors provide faster performance than any other mobile chip. Available only on premium laptops, workstations and high-end gaming rigs, Core i9 CPUs are only worth their premium price if you’re a power user who uses the most demanding programs and apps. Typically feature 14 total cores.
- Intel Core i7: A step up from Core i5, models with numbers that end in H use higher wattage and have between 10 and 14 cores, allowing for even faster gaming and productivity. There are also Core i7 P and U series chips that have lower power and performance. Keep an eye out for CPUs that have a 12 in the model number because they are part of Intel’s latest lineup.
- Intel Core i5: If you’re looking for a mainstream laptop with the best combination of price and performance, get one with an Intel Core i5 CPU. Models that end in U are the most common with lower power and performance to preserve battery life while models with a P use more wattage, while still offering better efficiency than the H-Series.
- Intel Core i3: Performance is just a step below Core i5 and so is the price. If you can step up to a Core i5, we recommend it.
- Intel Xeon: Extremely powerful and expensive processors for large mobile workstations. If you do professional-grade engineering, 3D modeling or video editing, you might want a Xeon, but you won’t get good battery life or a light laptop.
- Intel Pentium / Celeron: Still found in sub $400 laptops, these chips offer the slowest performance, but can do if your main tasks are web surfing and light document editing. If you can pay more to get a Core i3 or i5, you’d be better off.
- AMD A, FX or E Series: Found on low-cost laptops, AMD’s processors — the company calls them APUs rather than CPUs — provide decent performance for the money that’s good enough for web surfing, media viewing and productivity.
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RAM: Some sub-$250 laptops come with only 4GB of RAM, but ideally you want at least 8GB on even a budget system and 16GB if you can spend just a little more. For 99% of users, 32GB is more than enough, while 64GB and above is reserved for professional power users or high-end gamers.
Storage (SSD): As important as the speed of your CPU is the performance of your storage drive. If you can afford it and don’t need a ton of internal storage, get a laptop with a solid state drive (SSD) rather than a hard drive, because you’ll see at least three times the speed and a much faster laptop overall.
Among SSDs, the newer PCIe x4 (aka NVME) units offer triple the speed of traditional SATA drives. Sub-$250 laptops use eMMC memory, which is technically solid-state but not faster than a mechanical hard drive.
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Display: The more pixels you have, the more content you can fit on-screen, and the sharper it will look. Sadly, some budget laptops still have 1366 x 768 displays, but if you can afford it, we recommend paying extra for a panel that runs at 1920 x 1080, also known as Full HD or 1080p. Higher-end laptops have screens that are 2560 x 1600, 3200 x 1800, or even 3840 x 2160 (4K), which all look sharp but consume more power, lowering your battery life.
Display quality is about much more than resolution. IPS panels range in color and brightness, so read our reviews to find out if the laptop you’re considering has a good display. We typically look for a DCI-P3 color rating of over 85% and brightness great than 300 nits. If you want the very best picture quality consider an OLED display or miniLED, but read reviews of these models carefully as there can be battery trade-offs.
Touch Screen: If you’re buying a regular clamshell laptop, rather than a 2-in-1, you won’t get much benefit from a touch screen and you will get 1 to 2 hours less battery life. On 2-in-1s, touch screens come standard. If you still want a touch screen, check out our best touch screen laptops page.
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Graphics Chip: If you’re not playing PC games, creating 3D objects or doing high-res video editing, an integrated graphics chip (one that shares system memory) will be fine, especially Intel’s Iris Xe graphics. If you have any of the above needs, though, a discrete graphics processor from Nvidia or AMD is essential.
As with CPUs, there are both high- and low-end graphics chips. Low-end gaming or workstation systems today usually have Nvidia GTX RTX A1000 or RTX 3050 Ti GPUs while mid-range models have RTX 4050 or RTX 4050 Ti and high-end models have RTX 4070 or above chips. Nvidia maintains a list of its graphics chips from low to high end.
Nvidia’s rivals, AMD, launched the Radeon RX 7000 GPUs at CES in January of 2023. AMD also keeps a list of its graphics cards.
Ports: While the absence of ports is usually not a deal-breaker when choosing a laptop, it’s helpful to get the connections you need right on the system, rather than having to carry a slew of dongles. However, many mainstream laptops now only offer USB Type-C, Thunderbolt 4, or USB4 ports that are USB Type-C compatible. Having legacy USB 3.0 ports, an audio jack, an SD card reader, and HDMI can be useful, but depending on the type of laptop you are considering these features are growing harder to find.
With that said, USB Type-C is a definite plus because you can use it to connect to USB Type-C hubs or docking stations that can give you any combination of ports you might need.
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Connectivity: If you need to use your laptop on the go, consider buying a 4G LTE laptop or 5G laptop. You’ll have to pay for a data subscription plan, but this will allow you to access the internet away from a router. If you want a laptop with the latest and greatest connectivity options, find one with Wi-Fi 6 support. Wi-Fi 6 offers increased theoretical throughputs and a more stable connection than 802.11ac.
We also suggest looking for a laptop with Bluetooth 5, the latest standard that offers improved connectivity with Bluetooth-enabled devices, like mice and headphones.
DVD/Blu-ray Drives: Very few laptops come with optical drives, because all software and movies are downloadable, though we’ve kept track of the laptops with DVD drives. However, if you really need to read/write discs we strongly recommend leaving this off the wish list for your laptop and buying an external DVD drive.
6. Don’t Skimp on Battery Life
(Image credit: Future)
If you’re buying a large, bulky notebook or a gaming rig that you’ll use only on a desk near an outlet, you don’t have to worry about battery life. However, if you plan to use the laptop on your lap, even if it’s at home and or work, you’ll want at least 7 hours of endurance, with 9+ hours being ideal. To determine a notebook’s expected battery life, don’t take the manufacturer’s word for it. Instead, read third-party results from objective sources, such as our reviews.
MORE: Laptops with the Longest Battery Life
7. Plan Based on Your Budget
These days, you can buy a usable laptop for under $200, but if you can budget more, you’ll get a system with better build quality, stronger performance and a better display. Here’s what you can get for each price range.
- $150 to $250: The least-expensive notebooks are either Chromebooks, which run Google’s browser-centric OS, or low-end Windows systems with minimal storage and slower processors, such as the HP Stream 11 and the Lenovo Chromebook Duet. Use these as secondary computers only or give them to the kids.
- $350 to $600: For under $600, you can get a notebook with an Intel Core i5 or AMD Ryzen 5000 CPU, 4 to 8GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD, all respectable specs. However, there are sure to be some trade-offs to hit that price. There are outliers like the Lenovo IdeaPad Duet 5 Chromebook or the Samsung Galaxy Book.
- $600 to $900: As you get above $600, you’ll start to see more premium designs, such as metal finishes. Manufacturers also start to add in other features as you climb the price ladder, including higher-resolution displays and SSDs. The Apple MacBook Air M1 is typically in this price range along with Asus ZenBook 13 UX325EA.
- Above $900: At this price range, expect notebooks that are more portable, more powerful or both. Expect higher-resolution screens, faster processors, and possibly discrete graphics. The lightest, longest-lasting ultraportables, like the Acer Swift 5, tend to cost more than $1,000. High-end gaming systems and mobile workstations usually cost upward of $1,500 or even as much as $2,500 or $3,000.
MORE: Best Laptops Under $500
8. Mind the Brand
Your laptop is only as good as the company that stands behind it. Accurate and timely technical support is paramount, which is why Laptop Mag evaluates every major brand in our annual Tech Support Showdown. This past year Razer came in first place, followed by Apple and Lenovo in a tie for second place, while Dell and Asus settled for a shared third-place finish.
Support is only part of what makes a notebook brand worth your money. You also have to consider how the manufacturer stacks up to the competition in terms of design, value and selection, review performance, and other criteria. In our 2020 Best and Worst Laptop Brands report, HP placed first, followed by Asus and Dell. We’ve also rated gaming laptop brands, with MSI taking first place and Acer and Alienware rounding out the top three. Look out for updated versions of those reports in the coming months.
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Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more. Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you’ll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.
7 Best Gaming Laptops (2023): From Cheap to Premium
Adam Speight Gear Team
We tested the latest and greatest gaming notebooks to sort the god rolls from the vendor fodder.
Choosing a gaming laptop is a lot like putting together a well-balanced adventuring party. You need to look at what you plan to use it for, what kinds of quests you’ll tackle, and try to match its capabilities to your needs—without emptying your coin purse. To that end, weary traveler, we took it upon ourselves to source the latest and greatest gaming laptops from forges large and small. We gathered them in our keep and ran them through a variety of tests to sort the god-rolls from the vendor trash. Here they are, the best gaming laptops for every kind of player.
Be sure to check out our picks for the Best Laptops, Gaming Mice, Keyboards, Headsets, Wireless Headsets, and our favorite PC Games (as well as how to build a game library for free. )
Updated in March 2023: We’ve added the 18-inch Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 as a large-screen pick.
Special offer for Gear readers: Get a 1-year subscription to WIRED for $5 ($25 off). This includes unlimited access to WIRED.com and our print magazine (if you’d like). Subscriptions help fund the work we do every day.
Asus ROG Zephyrus M16 (2022)
The ROG Zephyrus M16 combines gaming horsepower with modern, high-quality perks. The Asus G15 was a powerful model, but the M16 added an extra-wide 16:10 screen, webcam, and support for Thunderbolt. The matte black design also helps it compete with the likes of Razer on style.
This second iteration has shed one of the few weaknesses of the first—being limited to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3070 graphics card. The M16 can now be equipped with a faster option, up to an RTX 3080 Ti. The top-tier gaming performance is made all the more glorious by one of the best laptop keyboards around and a strong selection of display options.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i9-12900H processor, Nvidia RTX 3070 Ti graphics card, 16-GB RAM, 1-TB SSD, 16-inch QHD+ display with a 165-Hz refresh rate
$1,900 at Best Buy
$1,600 at Amazon (RTX 3060)
A Cheaper Option
Acer Nitro 5
Acer’s Nitro 5 has been a terrific budget option for a few years now, and it’s no different in 2022. The design is nothing to write home about, but it won’t offend either. The display also isn’t the brightest, but at Full HD 144-Hz, it’s a strong combo for shooter fans and AAA players alike. The keyboard is remarkably good given the low price, with a lot of travel and pleasant feedback.
A big appeal of this laptop is what you can get for a reasonable price at the lower end, but you can spec this up to 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, a Core i7 chip, and RTX 3070 Ti GPU if you’d like. This is a laptop for the budget-conscious who want to do PC gaming on-the-go and not empty their wallet.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i5 12500H processor, Nvidia RTX 3060 graphics card, 16-GB RAM, 512-GB SSD, 15. 6-inch 1080p display with a 144-Hz refresh rate
$1,179 at Amazon (RTX 3060)
$799 at Walmart (RTX 3050 Ti)
$800 at Best Buy (RTX 3050 Ti)
Best 14-inch Portable
Asus ROG Zephyrus G14 (2022)
This compact gaming laptop from Asus burst on the scene a couple of years ago as a stunning value proposition. Now the ROG Zephyrus G14 (8/10, WIRED Recommends) offers less value for the money, but the full package remains hugely appealing. It has a fantastic keyboard, a crisp display, and a webcam—a welcome new addition!
The flagship model’s bright white look is eye-catching for a gaming laptop. A pivot to an all-AMD focus for this year’s model has also allowed Asus to beef up this laptop’s gaming capabilities, which were previously capped at an RTX 3060. The new Radeon RX 6800S delivers performance between an RTX 3070 and 3080, with the RX 6700S between an RTX 3060 and 3070. Battery life has taken a hit, but this remains a portable gaming delight.
Specs to look for: AMD Ryzen 9 6900HS processor, AMD Radeon RX 6700S graphics card, 16 GB RAM, 1 TB SSD, 14-inch QHD+ display with a 120-Hz refresh rate
$1,100 at Best Buy
For Work and Play
Dell XPS 15 (2022)
The Dell XPS 15 is a great laptop for those who want to do a bit of everything. Gaming is likely not your priority if you’re buying this machine, but you still want it to be capable—and it is. Admittedly, being able to do everything comes at a high price, so you’ll be paying a premium for an XPS 15.
This professional-looking device can reach 30 fps on its UHD display at low settings for more aesthetically minded titles, like Borderlands 3 and Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. To max out this 60-Hz panel, you’ll have to dip down to a QHD resolution. For frame-hungry players, Apex Legends will hit 60 fps on very high graphics options. This is all via our test model configuration of a Core i7-12700H, RTX 3050Ti, and 16-GB RAM.
There’s also a great keyboard—plenty of travel and a satisfying click—and a large trackpad. The big 16:10 3.5K OLED display is glorious, with deep blacks and popping color. Port selection isn’t half bad—with 3x Thunderbolt 4, a headphone jack, and SD card reader. The speakers are an interesting proposition with immense detail—even at high volumes—and a broad soundstage. However, the bass is good but not as booming and impactful as rival MacBook Pro devices.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i7-12700H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti, 16-GB RAM, 1-TB SSD, 15.6-inch 3.5K OLED display with a 60-Hz refresh rate
$1,949 at Best Buy (3.5K Model)
$2,299 at Dell (3.5K Model)
$2,299 at Amazon (FHD+ Model)
The Large Screen Pick
Asus ROG Strix Scar 18
WIRED’s review sample of the Asus ROG Strix Scar 18 came with the top specs available (i9-13980HX, RTX 4090) and it didn’t disappoint. This large-screened titan even destroys the impressive 16-inch M2 Max MacBook Pro (9/10, WIRED Recommends). Unsurprisingly, it’s a no contest on the gaming front, and, for creators, serious editing and production professionals will get better-sustained results with the Asus. The Strix Scar 18 does it with much less style and a far bigger chassis, but, if you’re power-hungry, this delivers.
At QHD Ultra settings in Apex Legends, you’ll almost max out this display at 225 fps, only requiring a few tweaks to hit the limit. Titles with a quality focus, like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, manage 122 fps at QHD Ultra—these are some seriously strong results.
The keyboard is expectedly excellent, with Asus offering the best gaming laptop keyboards for some time now, and there are plenty of ports. The 18.4-inch QHD 240-Hz panel is great for top-tier gaming and comes with a nice matte finish. The kicker is a very high price, starting at $2,499.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i9-13980HX processor, Nvidia RTX 4090 graphics card, 18-inch QHD display with a 240-Hz refresh rate
$4,499 at Amazon (RTX 4090)
$4,895 at Walmart (RTX 4090, 4TB)
$3,999 at Amazon UK (RTX 4090)
$3,999 at Argos (RTX 4090)
Best Luxe Option
Razer Blade 15 (2022)
The Razer Blade 15 was long the default pick for a gaming laptop for those who wanted top-tier power with some stylish looks. The field is more competitive now but it is still a strong option. If you want a Windows gaming machine with MacBook vibes, it’s the closest you’ll get. The performance doesn’t disappoint, with our RTX 3070 Ti test model hitting 60 fps at ultra settings in Borderlands 3 and maxing out the 240-Hz panel at FHD low settings.
Unfortunately, you have to shell out for one of the higher-priced models to take advantage of one of Razer’s new OLED panels, like the one I tested. As such, I’d recommend the lower-priced RTX 3060 model that still gets you the same resolution and refresh rate at a price that is a better value proposition—if still quite high.
The keyboard isn’t as satisfying as the Asus ROG Zephyrus machines, having a feel closer to a slimmer productivity device but with a good amount of extra travel and a smidge of nice feedback. A big clicky trackpad and broad port selection round out this excellent laptop.
Specs to look for: Intel Core i7-12800H processor, Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060, 16-GB RAM, 1-TB SSD, 15. 6-Inch QHD display with a 240-Hz refresh rate
$2,350 at Amazon
$2,500 at Razer
Photograph: Hyunha Kim/Getty Images
What Makes a Great Gaming Laptop?
It’s More Than Just Dancing Lights
A gaming laptop is like an enchanted sword. It can do all the usual sword things—chop, slice, cleave—but an enchanted sword can do a lot more, like talk or glow or deal extra damage to orcs. When it comes to raw power, a gaming laptop is almost always going to have the upper hand over a regular laptop. The key distinction is easy to spot: Gaming laptops all have discrete graphics cards. This is what gives your gaming laptop its extra oomph.
All laptops have graphics chipsets, usually just built into the processor so they can handle light gaming (think Hearthstone or Gwent). But a discrete graphics card (also called a graphics processing unit, or GPU) is a unit solely dedicated to rendering the visuals in your games. It’s an essential component in any gaming laptop, and it’s usually why they tend to be a bit pricey. Enchantments don’t come cheap, after all.
Photograph: staticnak1983/Getty Images
Know Your Specs
What specs are right for me?
In 2023, gamers in the market for a laptop should try to get a machine with 16 GB RAM, if they can afford it. While 8 GB of RAM is still workable for those who play low-demand games or have little desire for fancy graphics, 16 GB RAM is a safe bet for most. Consider the step up to 32 GB RAM if you’re an avid gamer.
Outside of RAM, you’ll have to decide whether you want the very best processors and graphics cards around, with Intel now on its 12th-Generation gaming CPUs and AMD Ryzen with the 6000 series. Nvidia has a wide range of 30-series GPUs as well—with the entry-level mobile RTX 3050 Ti having recently made its way to shelves—all the way up to a 3080 Ti. And that’s before you think about your display needs, from 4K resolution options to high-refresh-rate picks.
For additional help with all the different specifications on offer, check out our guide to buying the right laptop for you.
Adam Speight is a product writer at WIRED UK. He writes reviews and features for the Gear section, along with rigorously testing a wide range of devices for our buyer guides, WIRED Recommends. He’s all about consumer tech, but particularly laptops and phones. For the Gear team, he’s reported… Read more
TopicsShoppinglaptopsbuying guidesvideo games
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How to choose a laptop for study in 2023 for students and pupils
And don’t overpay for extra features
writes from an 11-inch laptop
It is important for students and schoolchildren to choose a reliable and inexpensive laptop.
There are no clear criteria for “training” models. Such devices are usually inexpensive and not very powerful – enough for basic tasks: working with texts, tables and presentations.
In the article I will tell you what to look for in inexpensive laptops and what features you can skip. A study laptop will also come in handy for business tasks: work in Word, collect simple presentations, and keep a calendar.
Checklist: how to choose a laptop for study
In order for a laptop to last a long time and not break before a session, it is important to carefully choose.
This is a short version of the guide – download it as a separate file or print it to refer to when you go to the store.
Download the checklist
What parameters are important for a study laptop
Sometimes you don’t need to buy a laptop for study – a smartphone or tablet with a connected keyboard is enough. But they are not suitable for serious and permanent work, and you can write code or process photos only on PCs and laptops.
Here’s what to look for before buying.
Iron. The performance of any computer and laptop is most affected by the video card and processor. A video card is needed to create 3D graphics, video editing and pictures in games. The newer and more advanced the graphics card, the better graphics in games and faster video processing.
The best laptops for work and more: 7 good options
The processor is responsible for the speed and stability of the work in general: with its help, applications are launched and run, as well as the operating system itself. A powerful processor will make it easier to work with large tables and volumes of data, as well as games and 3D modeling programs.
There is also RAM – it determines how many programs and tabs in the browser can be open at the same time. In addition to it, the storage also affects performance. From the hard disk, or HDD, the system and programs will start slower. Solid state drives, or SSDs, will allow you to open programs faster and turn on the device in a few seconds.
Ergonomics. A touchscreen, ultra-light body, and tactile keyboard are optional in a student notebook. Just make sure that it fits in a backpack, the screen is a comfortable size, and the touchpad responds correctly to pressing.
Autonomy. Most laptops with active use hold a charge for four to five hours. Over time, the battery wears out, and you will need to charge your laptop more often.
Operating system. Most likely, Windows will be installed on the laptop. It is flexibly configured, many devices are produced with it, and you can install it on any laptop.
Alternative laptop with DOS. This is a computer without an operating system, which is sold at a lower price. After purchase, you can install any version of Windows or even Linux to your taste on it, you only need a USB flash drive with installation files.
Price. For studying at school and in most university specialties, a laptop priced up to 55,000 R is enough. Everything that is more expensive is either excessively powerful or has design frills that you can save on. You can also pick up a laptop for less money: there are models cheaper than 25,000 R, but using them may not be very comfortable.
“The eyes don’t get tired”: how I chose a laptop for a student up to 50,000 R
Connectors, interfaces, important little things. A laptop is an all-in-one device, so there are many details to consider when buying:
- Standard USB-A is useful for flash drives and simple peripherals like mice, keyboards and printers.
- USB-C comes in various types, but is commonly used for charging, connecting advanced monitors, and fast external drives.
- 3.5 mm jack – headphone and microphone output.
- HDMI port for connecting an external monitor. The alternative is rarely found – mini DisplayPort, it is better, but not so convenient.
- VGA – Many schools still have projectors with an obsolete blue pin connector. But good laptops with it are not released in 2023, so it’s better to just buy an adapter.
- Wi-Fi module is built into all modern laptops, but there are different standards. The optimal one is called 802.11ac, aka Wi-Fi 5. If 802.11n or another with one letter at the end is specified, then the Internet will be slow, these are old standards. Sometimes you come across 802.11ax or Wi-Fi 6 – fast and modern, but not particularly helpful in studies.
- LAN RJ-45 – connector for wired internet. The thing is useful, but for educational tasks it is no longer very necessary.
- Bluetooth module – found in almost every laptop, allows you to connect wireless headphones and mice. There are different standards, it is better to take models of version 5.0 or newer, there is no particular difference.
- An integrated camera is a standard feature on a modern laptop, but image quality varies greatly depending on the model and price of the device. For distance learning and video calls, 1280 × 720 or 720p is enough. It’s not worth chasing a clearer 1080p.
Please note that all USB ports are different: the usual ones differ only in the data transfer speed, and USB-C also has additional functions such as the ability to charge or output images to an external monitor. Before buying, look for reviews or reviews on a specific model – they often write in detail about this.
USB 3.0 and 3.2 Gen 1 blue connector. Through it, files from a flash drive and back will be transferred 10 times faster than through a regular USB 2.0. Through even more advanced ports like 3.2 Gen 2, USB 4 or Thunderbolt 3, it’s even 2-4 times faster, but for a school it’s not worth overpaying for instant transfer of huge files. In practice, the speed also depends on the flash drive itself or an external hard drive.
The best external hard drives HDD and SSD
What kind of screen a laptop should have for study
We look at the screen all the time, so it is important that it be a comfortable size and quality so as not to irritate and not reduce productivity. You need to choose it immediately according to several parameters.
Diagonal . The screen size determines whether the laptop will fit in a backpack and whether it will be convenient to work on it without connecting an external monitor.
The optimal diagonal for a study laptop is 13-15.6 inches. Models with a smaller diagonal are more convenient to carry around, but deploying two windows without discomfort will no longer work. Models with a larger diagonal will suit gamers or those who need to work with tables, but carrying them around all the time will not be easy.
How to choose a laptop for gaming, internet or work
Here are the tasks that different diagonals are suitable for:
- Less than 13 inches. On such a laptop it is convenient to write small texts, work with graphics and use a browser. Such a diagonal is not suitable for processing photos and games.
- 13″ – 15.6″ one size fits all. Laptops with such screens fit into standard backpacks and allow you to work with tables and graphics. On the keyboard of such laptops, there are sometimes separate number blocks, or numpads – they are useful if you need to type a lot of numbers at school.
- 16″ are the same 15.6″ models but with thinner bezels.
- 17.3″ screens suitable for stationary work. They weigh a lot, but the screen is enough for both games and work with tables. You can not connect a monitor to such laptops, and there is almost always a number pad on the keyboard.
The screen size also affects the price – it is almost impossible to find a good laptop with a 17-inch screen within 55,000 R. But you can try.
This is ASUS VivoBook 16X, with a nice 16″ screen. He has enough “insides” even for many games. Source: dns-shop.ru
Matrix. The most important parameter when choosing a screen. It determines how high quality the image will be, how well it will be visible in the sun, and how the screen will transmit colors.
There are four options for different budgets:
- TN. Cheap matrices with a faded picture. They are suitable for games due to their short response time, but it will be inconvenient to work and study with them. The point is the low brightness and contrast of the picture. Also, TN-matrices are the worst at transmitting colors.
- IPS. The best choice is that such screens have everything in order with colors, and you can look at the monitor from a large angle if you want to work from bed. They cost more than analogues with TN and VA matrices, but it makes sense to overpay for a good screen.
- VA. A matrix with a contrasting and saturated picture, suffering from color reproduction comparable to TN. They cost a little less than IPS.
- OLED. The most expensive and high-quality matrix. It is distinguished by especially natural black color, OLED screens give the best picture in darkened rooms. This matrix is brighter, sharper and more energy efficient than others, but it also costs more — laptops with it are rarely cheaper than 70,000 rubles. This one costs 85,000 R. Source: dns-shop.ru
Update rate and response time. If you are going to use a laptop not only for studying, but also for games, pay attention to the screen refresh rate and response time. They determine how smoothly objects move on the screen.
For studying, it is important that the screen refresh rate is no lower than 60 hertz, and the response time is no more than 16 milliseconds. For documents, presentations, and spreadsheets, no more performance is required.
Permission. Screen resolution must be at least Full HD, i.e. 1920 × 1080 pixels so that the image is not grainy or annoying. There are models with a resolution of QHD 2560 × 1440 and even 4K, but they only make sense for professional photographers. For texts, communication and the browser, you should not overpay for high definition.
Needed and unnecessary features. High-end laptop manufacturers are improving the screen experience with various advanced technologies. But in a budget laptop for study, they are not particularly needed, and it is most often not worth overpaying for them.
The best laptops for work from new Chinese brands under Rs. If 400 nits or more is declared, the colors will be more saturated, the screen will not “blind” in bright sunlight.
- HDR is a technology to enhance the brightness and contrast of images in movies, TV shows and games. For study or work, it is useless – if you do not work with graphic content.
- Screen finish – glossy, matte and anti-reflective. Glossy screens catch the glare from light bulbs, but produce richer colors. Matte ones glare less, but not as clear. A glossy screen with an anti-reflective layer is best, but this option is found only in expensive models.
- Flicker-free – Reduces high-frequency backlight flicker to reduce eye fatigue. A very useful option in any gadget.
- The touch screen is a nice addition that you quickly get used to. But there is no need to pay extra for it.
What processor should a laptop have for study
How does the processor work. It is responsible for the speed of the computer: how quickly the system starts up, opens files and programs, performs calculations in Excel, and how many simultaneous windows and tabs in the browser the computer can support without slowing down.
Processors consist of computational cores that operate at a certain clock frequency. The more cores and the higher their frequency, the more powerful the chip – and the more it consumes energy and heats up more. Therefore, a powerful laptop will always be thicker, heavier and louder with fans, and a thin and quiet model will not match it in speed, but will win in terms of battery life. When buying, it is important to determine priorities in advance.
How to choose an external battery for your smartphone, tablet and laptop
How to choose a processor. Stores sell devices with dozens of different processors. One model can have many versions with chips of different brands, different capacities, and even different years of manufacture.
Processor names consist of combinations of letters and numbers:
- Brand name – Intel or AMD. There are only two of them on Windows, and there is no clear leader among them.
- Series name – Core, Atom, Pentium, Ryzen. Most budget lines are not very good, so you should focus on Intel Core and AMD Ryzen when choosing.
- Processor series – Core i5, Ryzen 7. AMD and Intel have the same logic: the number 3 marks the entry-level chips, 5 – the average, and 7 and 9 – the top ones.
- Generation – i7 13xxxx, Ryzen 7xxxx. The higher the first number in the model index, the newer the chip. In 2023, Intel chips of the 12th and 13th generation are relevant, while AMD has 5, 6 and 7.
- Model – i7 xx750x, Ryzen 3 x400x. The larger the number, the more powerful the chip, but you should pay attention to this part of the name last.
- Suffix – the letter at the end indicates the purpose of the chip, this parameter should be looked at first. Among common chips, models with the letter H or P are more powerful, while those with the letters U, Y, C, and G are weaker, but consume less battery power.
The easiest way to compare processors is by generation: the higher the number, the newer and better the processor. If you delve into the characteristics, you can draw wrong conclusions, because there are a lot of nuances. In any unclear situation, you can check with test aggregators like this one. It is enough to copy the names from the description in the store and look at the charts for various parameters.
The best processors. Below is a list of the best laptop processors for school and work in 2023. These are not the most powerful chips, but they are more than enough for performance in the browser, instant messengers and office programs. Here are some popular options:
- Intel Core i3 1115G4;
- Intel Core i5 1135G7;
- Intel Core i3 1215U;
- Intel Core i5 1235U;
- AMD Ryzen 3500U;
- AMD Ryzen 5300U;
- AMD Ryzen 5500U;
- AMD Ryzen 5600H.
What do the stickers on laptops
Lenovo V15 G2 with Core i5 1135G7 mean for both games and study. It has 8 GB of RAM and a 15-inch Full HD screen for tables, texts and movies. Source: market.yandex.ru
What video card should a laptop have for studying
How does a video card work. A video card or graphics processor is a separate microchip in a computer that is responsible for rendering graphics. Without it, the computer will not be able to display a picture on the screen and display the operating system, and the most powerful models allow you to develop and run modern games with realistic graphics, create special effects for Hollywood films.
Video cards can be built-in or discrete.
Integrated is located inside the main processor and is inseparable from it. The newer and more expensive the processor, the more powerful the integrated graphics card. Not very fast, but saves battery power.
Most processors released after 2020 have built-in powerful graphics cards. They will not replace a gaming PC, but they will be able to run “light” games like Dota 2, World of Tanks or old single hits like Doom (2016) and GTA V.
20 addictive games for low-end computers and laptops
All of the above processors can do without an additional discrete graphics card. Such laptops are quite suitable for calls, texts, watching movies, photo retouching, light video editing and rare running of undemanding games.
The discrete graphics card is a separate chip that works in tandem with the processor. This option is usually much more powerful than integrated graphics, but consumes more power and gets very hot. Laptops with a powerful discrete graphics card are more expensive, larger, heavier, and drain faster, but they are more suitable for gaming and creative tasks.
Three companies make individual graphics cards: Nvidia, AMD, and Intel. Chips from Nvidia have proven themselves best – they work the most stable. They also have many additional features such as the NVENC codec, which facilitates video editing and live streaming during video calls.
So what? 03/01/23
Nvidia RTX video cards now improve video quality using neural networks
Below we have collected several successful video cards that are found in inexpensive laptops – they will allow you to engage in amateur video editing and sometimes play. If a model is not in the list, then it is either outdated or not sufficiently different from the built-in options in terms of performance, so you should not overpay for it.
- GeForce GTX 1050;
- GeForce GTX 1650;
- GeForce GTX 1660.
Intel integrated graphics performance tests in popular games
What kind of memory a laptop should have for study
There are two types of memory in a laptop: operational and permanent. The first one is responsible for supporting parallel processes and the speed of working with large files, while the OS, all programs and files are stored in the permanent one.
RAM . The minimum allowable amount of memory for comfortable work in 2023 is 8 GB. The most budget models are found with a margin of 4-8 GB, but in 2023 this is not enough for Windows and applications. The more gigabytes, the more programs at the same time the device can keep in memory without slowdowns.
There are different types of memory: DDR4, LPDDR4, DDR5 and others. They differ in speed, but for an entry-level laptop you should not worry about it: this is critical only for professional creative applications and games.
But it is better to pay attention to the layout of the memory. Some laptops have RAM chips soldered directly onto the motherboard, so it will not be possible to replace it in the future. It is better to buy an inexpensive laptop with removable RAM – then in the future it will be possible to expand the stock from 8 to 16 GB to increase performance.
Which card reader to buy in 2023
This is what a removable RAM stick looks like in a laptop. Source: ru.ifixit.com
Permanent memory, or mass storage. The operating system, all programs and files are installed on it. The first thing that is important to know about a drive when choosing a laptop is its type.
There are three types:
- HDD is a slow mechanical hard disk. It can break or fail from shaking, makes a noticeable noise and works quite slowly. Windows boots from the HDD in a few minutes, and large applications install and start with a noticeable delay.
- SSDs are modern solid state drives. The slowest SSD is 5 times faster than a regular HDD, and advanced models are more than 50 times faster. With an SSD, Windows fully boots up in less than a minute, and programs launch instantly.
- eMMC is an option for the cheapest laptops. A small and slow solid-state memory chip soldered to a laptop circuit board. Works faster than HDD, but inferior to SSD in all respects.
So, when choosing a laptop, we immediately dismiss options without an SSD – this is not a luxury for a long time, and a small savings is not worth wasting time waiting for empty downloads and getting angry at the brakes. But you can ignore the speed of a particular SSD: the difference between them is almost imperceptible for “educational” tasks, when you do not need to copy and archive thousands of photos or giant video files.
Unlike RAM, any SSD can be replaced. But these drives come in two types, which differ in speed and connection method:
- SATA – the slowest type of SSD, identical in size and shape to HDDs. They are easy to replace on your own, besides, large-volume models are relatively inexpensive.
- M.2 or NVMe is a slot on the motherboard where a small chip board is inserted. Such an SSD is much faster and takes up less space in the case. But the slot can sometimes be in a hard-to-reach place inside the case, and NVMe drives themselves are one and a half to two times more expensive than SATA models with equal volume.
The best SSDs: 5 successful models for PC, laptop and game consoles PC, tablet or game console.
Notebooks for study can be divided into four price categories:
- Up to 20,000 R. A primitive typewriter for those who need to save as much as possible. It’s not worth taking such cheap models for a long time: they save on everything, so the computer will most likely work slowly, discharge quickly and creak. In this case, an Android tablet for the same price will be both faster and more autonomous.
- 20 000-35 000 R. In this price category – the best entry-level models. On them, you can easily use a browser with a bunch of tabs, fill in large tables and try your hand at easy editing.
- Rs. From such models, you can expect a decent design, a good battery and enough power to run online games. Look for examples of such devices in our technical selection of laptops for work.
- More expensive than 55 000 R. Powerful devices of high and premium level. Here you can already come across gaming models, and stylish metal business laptops with cool screens, and even current MacBooks in minimal trim levels.
Sales in online stores or buying used models on Avito will help you save money. For example, this is almost the only way to buy a MacBook on a limited budget – in this article we did not even consider Apple computers, as these are premium devices. We have a whole selection of current Macbook models in the secondary market.
Be careful: older laptops may be significantly weaker than similar models from 2021-2023. Therefore, the difference in price may be less than the gap in performance and component quality.
This is especially true for the quality of screens, the amount of RAM and the type of drives: now even inexpensive laptops are almost always equipped with a fast SSD drive and a normal display, but until 2020 this was considered more of a luxury.
How to safely buy equipment on the Internet: from Yandex Market to Aliexpress
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Z710 main features and specifications
The Lenovo Z710 is designed for everyday entertainment. It’s a flexible entertainment center powered by the fourth generation Intel ® Core ™ processor. High-quality sound, Full HD display, massive storage and amazing affordability, this laptop will make you happy.
- 17.3″ Full HD display
- JBL stereo speakers ® with Dolby technology ® Home Theater ® v4
- intelligent touch panel
- AccuType keyboard
- Integrated 720p high definition webcam and dual array digital microphones
- style and comfort
Intel ® Core ™ i7-4700MQ
8 GB DDR3 RAM
NVIDIA ® GeForce ® GT 745M 2 GB
Built-in high definition webcam (720p)
17. 3″ Full HD (1920 x 1080) display
1 TB HDD, 8 GB SSD
WiFi 802.11 BGN
Up to 5 hours battery life
Lenovo IdeaPad Z710 17.3″Full HD(1920×1080) glossy, Ci7-4700MQ(2.